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Viewing cable 10BAGHDAD70, IRAQI PRESIDENT AND VICE PRESIDENT DISCUSS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
10BAGHDAD70 2010-01-11 15:03 2010-12-05 12:12 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
VZCZCXYZ0001
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHGB #0070/01 0111553
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 111553Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6076
INFO RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE
RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUMICEA/USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL//CCJ2//
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L BAGHDAD 000070 

SIPDIS 

DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/FO AND NEA/I. NSC FOR PHEE AND VROOMAN 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/07/2020 
TAGS: IR IZ KDEM PGOV PREL
SUBJECT: IRAQI PRESIDENT AND VICE PRESIDENT DISCUSS 
IRAN-IRAQ BORDER DISPUTE, ELECTIONS, AND SECURITY WITH 
CODEL MCCAIN 

REF: A. A) BAGHDAD 3334 
B. B) BAGHDAD 0028 

Classified By: DCM ROBERT S. FORD FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D) 

1. (C) Summary: Senators John McCain (R/AZ), Joseph Lieberman 
(I/CT), John Barrasso (R/WY), and John Thune (R/SD) on 
January 5, 2009 held meetings with Iraqi President Jalal 
Talabani and Vice President Adil Abd al-Mahdi to discuss the 
recent Blackwater ruling, upcoming Iraqi national election, 
and Iraq's regional relations. In separate meetings, both 
Talabani and Abd al-Mahdi discussed the status of Iraqi 
relations with Iran relative to the Fakkah oil field 
incident. Additionally, Talabani commented on the 
seriousness of recent demonstrations inside Iran and 
cautioned the U.S. against showing public support for the 
Iranian opposition, which could undermine their credibility. 
For his part, Abd al-Mahdi discussed the need for Iraqi 
elections to be seen as transparent and legitimate, and noted 
the importance of a timely government formation period. With 
regard to the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, Abd 
al-Mahdi acknowledged progress made in strengthening the 
Iraqi Army, but stressed the importance of not overestimating 
Iraq's capabilities. He called for the U.S. and Iraqi 
governments to reassess the current security situation and 
revise the security agreement accordingly after the new Iraqi 
government is established. End Summary. 

---------------------------------- 
REPERCUSSIONS OF BLACKWATER RULING 
---------------------------------- 

2. (C) President Talabani remarked that he hoped the incident 
would not affect the relationship between Iraq and the U.S. 
and commented that even in Iraq, courts are independent and 
sometimes issue decisions that those in the government do not 
agree with, but such rulings must be obeyed regardless. The 
Vice President stressed the importance of an appeal as the 
Iraqi people are looking for justice. Abd al-Mahdi noted 
that in a separate incident one of his personal guards was 
killed by an intoxicated Blackwater employee. 

---------------------------- 
THE IRAN-IRAQ BORDER DISPUTE 
---------------------------- 

3. (C) Abd al-Mahdi commented that Iraqi relations with Iran 
are at a low point, noting that what the Iranians did in 
Fakkah was a mistake. (Ref A) He said that both countries 
acknowledge that the Fakkah oil well is in a disputed area, 
because of the unclear border between Iran and Iraq, but he 
believed the situation was returning to normal as evidenced 
by the Iranians removing their flag from the field. The Vice 
President stressed that because of Iraq's shared border with 
Iran, it is very important to maintain good relations between 
the two countries, just as the same is true for Iraqi 
relations with Turkey and Syria. He believed that Iraq could 
not risk its future by entering into a new conflict with 
Iran. Abd al-Mahdi stated that Iraq cannot wage war against 
its neighbors, and said that the more problems Iraq has with 
its neighbors, the more they must negotiate to overcome those 
problems. 

4. (C) Talabani commented that the 1975 Algiers Agreement (on 
border delineation) is the root of many problems surrounding 
the Iran-Iraq border. The President commented that in some 
places the Iranians are moving toward the border because of 
what they see as laid out in the 1975 Agreement, but said 
Qwhat they see as laid out in the 1975 Agreement, but said 
that the Iraqis do not recognize the agreement because it was 
formalized under the Saddam regime. 

--------------------------------------------- 
TALABANI: U.S. SHOULD BE MINDFUL OF IMPACT OF SUPPORTING IRAN 
OPPOSITION 
--------------------------------------------- 

5. (C) When asked about the ongoing demonstrations in Iran 
and whether such events pose a real threat to the Iranian 
regime, Talabani said that the current demonstrations are 
very serious and represent the division among the political 
leaders and religious authorities trickling down to the 
street level. The President commented that Iran has a 
diverse population, with differences among all groups running 


deep with a long history. He stressed that it was not that 
the Iranian regime was weak, but rather that the opposing 
side was strong. Talabani said that the Iranian opposition 
included both experienced Iranian politicians, to include 
Mousavi, Rafsanjani, and Karrubi, and important religious 
figures. He also commented that whereas the demonstrations 
at first were attacking Iranian President Ahmadinejad, they 
have now shifted to being against Supreme Leader Khamenei. 
Talabani said that the Iranian government feels threatened. 
In response, Iran has threatened to use any force necessary, 
and was presently trying to pass a law in the Parliament to 
hang those found to be against the regime. Talabani also 
commented that historically major leadership changes in Iran 
begin in the main cities and spread throughout the country. 
He opined that what is currently transpiring is reminiscent 
of past major changes in Iran. However, he believed that 
unlike in previous scenarios, the current regime is able to 
threaten people without any fear of a third party stepping 
in. Talabani said for example that the Shah was somewhat 
tempered by his fear of the U.S. intervening, but that no 
such moderating force presently exists. 

6. (C) With regard to any possible show of U.S. support to 
the Iranian people, Talabani cautioned that the U.S. must 
consider how the Iranian regime could use a show of U.S. 
solidarity toward the Iranian opposition to further label the 
opposition as agents of the U.S. 

7. (C) Referring to his conversations with Syrian President 
Bashar al-Asad, Talabani said that the Syrians deny suicide 
bombers enter Iraq via Syria and say they support Iraqi unity 
and security. Talabani opined that certain parts of the 
Syrian regime were supportive of such terrorists. Talabani 
also commented that none of Iraq,s neighbors are happy about 
Iraq's success and do not want a strong, united Iraq, as they 
fear Iraq as a model of democracy in the region and Iraq,s 
ability to assume its share of the oil market. However, 
Talabani stated that regardless of the positions held by its 
neighbors, Iraq will continue to advance in achieving its 
goals. 

--------------------------------------------- ----- 
ABD AL-MAHDI HINTS FASTER GOVERNMENT FORMATION IN 2010 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 

8. (C) Adil Abd al-Mahdi in response to an inquiry into his 
assessment of the upcoming Iraqi national election said that 
he believed that elections are always good, especially in a 
country working to move past a history of tyranny and 
dictatorship and embrace democracy. He hoped to see a 
transparent and legitimate election, free from foreign 
interference, and noted that the provincial elections 
demonstrated that Iraq is moving in the right direction with 
this regard. The Vice President believed that holding a 
successful national election would help to further stabilize 
the Iraqi political system. He hoped that participation in 
the election would be as high as that of previous elections, 
but acknowledged that turnout could be somewhat less. Abd 
al-Mahdi commented that the four-month delay in forming a 
government following the previous national election was 
damaging to Iraq and sent the wrong message to Iraq's 
enemies. He noted that Iraqi blocs currently are engaged in 
Qenemies. He noted that Iraqi blocs currently are engaged in 
negotiations in an effort to minimize the length of the 
government formation period. 

9. (C) Abd al-Mahdi said he believed "popular mobilization" 
was the best method to campaign for the national election, 
whereby candidates get out to visit various neighborhoods and 
go house to house engaging the Iraqi population. The Vice 
President also commented that campaigning will utilize both 
radio and television, and that during this campaign season 
there would also be several debates. Abd al-Mahdi noted that 
elections in 2010 will differ from the previous national 
elections, in that the Iraqi people will vote for individuals 
as opposed to lists, which he believed was a positive change 
and would result in less polarization. Additionally, he 
observed that there were good and respected names on the 
candidate lists. 

10. (C) When asked, Abd al-Mahdi acknowledged that he is a 
contender for the prime ministership, but noted that as is 
the case in all elections, the election outcome and alliances 
formed would ultimately determine the next prime minister. 


(Comment: It was evident that Abd al-Mahdi clearly remembers 
the role that the U.S. Ambassador played in preventing him 
from becoming Prime Minister in 2006 because of his ties to 
Iran. End Comment.) 

---------------------------------- 
TALABANI: SHIA LISTS WILL DOMINATE 
---------------------------------- 

11. (C) President Talabani when queried as to his election 
predictions said that he believed the winning bloc would 
either be Maliki's State of Law or the Iraqi National 
Alliance (INA), with Allawi's list coming third. Regarding 
the Kurdish bloc, Talabani said that the PUK and KDP lists 
will be united, but that all Kurdish parties will be working 
to advance themselves. However, he stated that regardless of 
election outcome, the Kurds will remain a united force in 
Baghdad. 

--------------------------------------------- -------------- 
ABD AL-MAHDI CAUTIONS AGAINST OVERESTIMATING IRAQI FORCES 
--------------------------------------------- -------------- 

12. (C) In response to an inquiry into concerns surrounding 
the U.S. withdrawal and the readiness of the Iraqi Army (IA) 
to fill that void, Abd al-Mahdi said that there are less 
fears of this prospect than there were two years ago. The 
Vice President acknowledged that there are good signs of 
development in the IA, but said he thought all parties 
overestimated progress made and said he would qualify the 
current situation in Iraq differently than some of his 
colleagues would. He said that two months ago others within 
the GOI believed Al-Qa'ida was finished and argued for the 
removal of T-walls, but that he believed Al-Qa'ida was not 
finished, but rather would spread if left to its own devices. 
Abd al-Mahdi believes the GOI and U.S. government must 
reassess the current security situation in Iraq and the next 
Iraqi government and the U.S. should revise the security 
agreement accordingly, especially in light of recent attacks 
targeting government buildings in the center of Baghdad. 

13. (C) The Vice President said that logistically and 
strategically we are winning the war, but that all parties 
must remain aware that this reality could shift. Abd 
al-Mahdi stressed that we should not "underestimate our enemy 
or overestimate our forces." He said that with all of the 
positive developments in Iraq, one can see a certain light at 
the end of the tunnel, but that Iraq can do better in all 
areas, from regional relations to countering terrorism. 

--------------------------------------------- --------- 
SECOND ROUND OF OIL BIDDING, ABSENCE OF U.S. COMPANIES 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 

14. (C) President Talabani expressed disappointment that more 
American companies did not participate in the second round of 
oil biding in Iraq. Talabani said that for many years he has 
encouraged President Bush, and now President Obama, to 
support U.S. companies' investment in Iraq, noting that the 
U.S. administration was always waiting for the Iraqi oil law 
to be adopted by parliament prior to encouraging such 
investment. (Ref B) 

15. (U) CODEL McCain cleared this message. 
HILL